HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM YOUR FRIENDS AT THE PALE BLUE BLOG! Today’s topic: VENUS!
In this special halloween post, I’m excited to introduce you to a concept for a long duration manned mission to Venus, using blimps to hover in the atmosphere.
First off, there should be a more gender neutral way to say “manned mission” shouldn’t there be? Especially to Venus, as Venus is the only planet named after a female figure. Human-mission? Crewed-mission? It might take a while for a new term to become colloquial, but until that happens we might have already sent humans to Venus.
Now wait just a second…isn’t Venus super duper hot and inhospitable?
Yes, in fact the temperature at the Venusian surface is over 800º F, with sulfuric acid rain, and is about 90 times the atmospheric pressure at the surface of Earth. Even with several spacecraft visits to our sister planet, the longest surviving spacecraft (Venera 13) lasted just 127 minutes on the surface before it became unresponsive (most probes only lasted 30-50 min). The former Soviet Union is the only country to successfully land functioning crafts on the surface of Venus (although the US had one atmospheric probe that happened to transmit information from the surface). Special thanks to blog reader Richard K. for pointing this cool fact out!
I was fortunate to catch a lecture given by two NASA Langley Scientists (Dr. Dale Arney + Chris Jones), otherwise I would have still thought Venus was a hot, hot, mess and definitely not suitable for human habitation. However, they have convinced me otherwise with their mission concept, a five phase plan to eventually have a permanent floating settlement in the clouds of Venus, called HAVOC (High Altitude Venus Operations Concept):
Phase 1 – Send a robotic mission to 50 km above the surface to prove the technology needed to support humans.
Phase 2- Send a crew to orbit Venus for 30 days in a habitat
Phase 3 – Send a 30 day crew to the live atmosphere 50 km above the surface
Phase 4- Send a one year crew to live in the atmosphere
Phase 5 – Establish a permanent crew to inhabit floating structures on Venus.
In terms of human missions to other places in the Solar System, Venus is not an obvious choice and definitely takes the backseat to Mars. Initially, I thought this was a cockamamie idea, but after hearing their reasoning, design implementations, as well as laboratory tests, it felt plausible. I mean why not? At 50 km above the Venusian surface, temperatures are still hot at 75ºC (167ºF), however the atmospheric pressure at 50 km is only 1.05 atmospheres, very similar to the pressure at the surface of Earth. Gravity at that altitude is 8.86 m/s2 , and with it’s short 100-day transit time, it seemed slightly more favorable for habitation as compared to Mars’ s 3.71 m/s2 gravity and ~8 month transit time.
What’s the fun in floating around in clouds in a blimp?
True, you wont be able to walk around on Venus, but our sister planet could be a more design friendly scenario than sending humans to Mars. You wouldn’t have to deal with Martian problems such as iron rich soils (potentially harmful to humans if in contact with skin and not ideal for growing food), little gravity (causing bone density issues, among other things), planetary protection violations, and building artificial habitats with limited supplies. Not to mention the recent MIT feasibility study suggesting that the proposed Mars One (a one-way mission to Mars) is not possible, according to their plans. Do I dare say that Mars isn’t looking so hot, and Venus is the new cool?
What do you think? Leave us your opinion in the comment section below and please check out the awesome concept video for HAVOC!